Fix Failing schools? Turnaround chief on task - CBS46 News

Fix Failing schools? Turnaround chief on task

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Source: WGCL Source: WGCL
ATLANTA (CBS46) -

Classes might be out for the summer but maybe they shouldn't be. That's because a startling statistic shows two thirds of the third-grade students in the state of Georgia can't read.

So, who is fixing the schools and which school are failing so many Georgia children?

A new leader on the job only for six months is tasked with the problem and he talked exclusively to CBS46 reporter Sally Sears.

Dr. Eric Thomas would rather act than talk.

Several schools in the bottom five percent in Georgia academically are in metro Atlanta.

Sixteen are in DeKalb County, Eight are in Fulton and another sixteen are in city of Atlanta's district.

"We are failing them before the third grade. That's my concern," says House Education Committee Chairperson Brooks Coleman.

The concern of failing school children echoes in the marble halls of the state capitol. Coleman, the long-time house education committee chair, gets a report from Dr. Eric Thomas, the man hired six months ago as Georgia's chief turnaround officer. 

"We've identified about 10 indicators we'll monitor on a monthly basis," says Dr. Thomas.

[WEB EXCLUSIVE: Full interview with Dr. Eric Thomas]

Thomas believes turnarounds begin with data, among them measures of student discipline parent perceptions and staff attendance.

If you want to measure staff culture, staff morale, look at attendance," said Thomas. "If teachers are constantly out of school, absent? It sort of suggests they don't feel quite as good about the school."

The data convinces Dr. Thomas that feeling good about the school is critical for teachers and students in turning things around.

So, what report card does Dr. Thomas expect next May?

"I think we are going to see movement in all the schools we’ve worked on," continued Thomas. "Extremely disappointed if that is not the case. Chairperson Coleman's point about leveraging what we’re learning, our vision is, if we are working in three schools in a district that should have impact on other schools in that district. Long term, what we've learned in one school, one district has an impact on the entire state."

The legislature gives a dollar for dollar tax break for people helping the innovation fund for public schools. That's a new source of money for these lowest performing schools.

When are the low performing Atlanta and DeKalb schools getting help? Dr. Thomas wants their turnaround strategies to work first. He's beginning with schools with far less money and attention.

But if it doesn't work, the state law includes takeovers and nobody CBS46 talked with is forgetting that.

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